Asia-Pacific Cellular Antenna Market Expands Based on Passive and Active Antenna Sales

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By Jake Saunders | 1Q 2023 | IN-6798

The Asia-Pacific 5G rollout is priming the market for 5G antenna sales—in both passive and active configurations.

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5G Coverage and Capacity Is on a Roll


The outlook for cellular base station passive and active antenna sales looks robust for 2023 and beyond. This is underpinned by the 5G subscriber adoption profile for the Asia-Pacific region. Representing two-thirds of the global population, the GSMA reports that 5G mobile connections will grow by about 150 million to reach 1,789 million subscribers by 2025; of which, South Asia will account for the largest growth. The Chinese government recently released some eye watering numbers regarding its 5G rollout status. By the end of September 2022, 2.22 million 5G base stations had been built. In addition to covering all prefecture-level cities, 5G infrastructure has been rolled out to all counties and key towns. South Korea’s 5G base station deployments may not be in the millions, but at 215,000 and counting, it is a respectable number. Japan is playing catchup, with 87,000 5G base stations, but it is determined to have 98% 5G coverage by 2024. Other markets in Asia, such as India, Thailand, Vietnam, etc., have very much seen the value mobile cellular communications can bring to the economy and are accelerating their 5G investments.

Antenna Complexity and Functionality Differentiates


This acceleration in 5G infrastructure investment has had a knock-on effect for the cellular base station antenna market. ABI Research has released a research study, 4G and 5G Passive Antennas, and a competitive assessment, Passive Base Station Antenna Market on the topic. Cellular antennas play an essential role in enabling the 5G cellular experience. Cellular base station antennas can be deployed in a passive electronics or an active antenna electronics capacity.

Passive cellular antennas have been the mainstay of the market until quite recently. Innovation in the passive cellular antenna sector has not dissipated. As the number of frequency bands has grown, the number of ports to support transceivers has also expanded. Today, 10- to 14-port antennas are becoming the norm, but even 30-port antenna configurations are in the toolbox for the operator if they need it. Higher order Multiple Input, Multiple Output (MIMO) has also increased the need for antenna ports. Much of the cellular spectrum allocated to operators is in a Frequency Division Duplex (FDD) or a transmit up and down spectrum configuration), but 4G and 5G spectrum has also been issued in a Time Division Duplex (TDD) on a single frequency) basis. Antenna port complexity has been driven by Communication Service Providers (CSPs) wanting redundant capacity (just in case a port fails) to support active network sharing. Active network sharing has been gaining traction as mobile operators look to cut Radio Access Network (RAN) operating expenses. As more towers are being offloaded to unlock their value, active network sharing results in CSPs sharing their equipment and their infrastructure.

Massive MIMO (mMIMO) antennas have active antenna components and can provide the CSP with a very effective mechanism to boost capacity in busy, congested central business districts. The deployment of mMIMO in Asia has been mixed to date due to the diverse stages of 5G adoption across the region. Northeast Asia’s economies are, without a doubt, ahead of their peers in their deployments in the Asia-Pacific region. But countries like Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand, just to name a few examples, have deployed or are starting to roll out mMIMO.

mMIMO antennas do not supersede passive cellular antennas. Three Hong Kong has deployed FDD+TDD hybrid passive antennas to tap into its new 5G spectrum allocations. The choice of whether to deploy an FDD+TDD or a 64T64R/32T32R antenna comes down to a few key considerations: cost of deployment, site limitations, and time to deployment.

Investment in Asia-Pacific Antenna Sales Deepens


In 2022, the passive base station antenna market recorded a total worldwide revenue of US$3.75 billion, about 5% growth Year-on-Year (YoY), and about 4.9 million shipments. The Asia-Pacific region recorded revenue of US$1.3 billion for 2021, an increase of about 7% from 2020’s US$1.2 billion. Asia-Pacific will continue to make up the largest market globally, representing about 35% of the total global annual revenue. Overall, we are seeing signs of priorities shifting for operators from passive antennas to active antennas. ABI Research expects growth to slow as we move toward the middle of the century. In Asia, total 5G mMIMO radios generated US$23.5 billion in antenna sales and are expected to peak in 2024 with US$32 billion. Thereafter, 5G mMIMO antenna revenue recedes as the rate of mMIMO upgrades slows. The prospect for 5G services, access speeds, network capacity, and latency look rosy for Asia-Pacific as the investments that Asia’s CSPs commit to 5G begin to pay off.



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